Customer success story - Blackberry Lane

How Famly helps a multi-site setting stay organised
Blackberry Lane logo and Famly logo with an iPad
February 6, 2022
Reading time:
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Nursery and Pre-school

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Isle of Wight

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2, 3, and 4-year-old funded places

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With Famly since

September 2021

Who are Blackberry Lane?

In the Early Years, time (like cups of tea and pairs of hands) is something that all practitioners could use more of.

Blackberry Lane in Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, is no exception.

The setting of 25 staff and up to 50 children has a nursery, a pre-school, a before school club, an after-school club, a holiday club, a variety of session lengths, the options to attend term-time or full-time, and is at two separate sites. 

Before Famly, their staff and management team were wasting precious time going between a variety of tools to get the oversight they needed.

“We used a learning journal software, another invoicing software, email, Facebook, and physical paperwork,” explains Teresa Niell, Blackberry Lane’s administration manager. “But now having Famly, we have everything in one central point.”

The big ideas

Why Famly?

  • How easy is Famly to use?
    Blackberry Lane were up-and-running with Famly before their Famly customer success manager called to set them up, as they found it so straightforward.
  • How does Famly save time?
    Famly has saved management time by streamlining their administration and halved the work staff were taking home.
  • How does Famly give leadership oversight?
    Family has allowed Teresa and Debbie to gain oversight of the facts and figures they need, all in one place.
  • How has Famly improved parental partnerships?
    Since moving to Famly, Blackberry Lane noticed an increase in parent observations, more communication about child absences, and more thoroughly completed child profiles.

How easy is Famly to use?

Like any bustling Early Years setting, time is precious, so getting on-boarded quickly was key. Luckily the team at Blackberry Lane found Famly so easy to use, by the time they had their welcome call with the Customer Success team, they were mostly up and running already.

“I’m not very technically-minded, but we were able to do so much of it ourselves. It was quicker than we thought too,” says Debbie. 

Teresa agrees, “It was just so easy to use, I whizzed through it. It was just so straightforward and logical. I’m not particularly technical either, but if I can work it out, anybody can!” 

The Blackberry Lane team also loved the support from Famly and that they could use our help centre to look up how to do something themselves.

“You always get an answer”, says Debbie, “The support is second to none. We had support from our old provider but we didn’t get phone calls or training sessions or feedback… or even answers sometimes!”

three children play in a pre-school. A boy os drawing on a whiteboard while two girls sit at a table.

How does Famly save time?

“The staff are really lovely here, and that’s why we have a great reputation”, says Debbie, so keeping her hard-working team happy is always a priority.

Even for those who were initially intimidated by the thought of learning a new software, Famly made a positive impact.

“A member of staff came to me and said she was a bit unsure about Famly at first, but now has half as much paperwork to deal with, resulting in less to take home.” Debbie credits Famly, as well as the new EYFS, for giving her staff back this time.

For Teresa, managing the setting’s administration through Famly has also reduced her workload.

“I love the booking patterns,” says Teresa. “You just set the hours that a child’s attending and that’s it! It just carries on until we change it. With the tool we were using before, we were having to completely delete a child’s sessions, then add all the sessions in again, if we wanted to make a small change. Now I can easily see where we have space for ad-hoc sessions too.”

It’s the same with managing the revenue too. Using Famly has saved Teresa the time she used to spend wading through dozens of invoices.

“First we were printing physical invoices,” explains Teresa. “Then we had another software for invoicing, but I’d have to produce the invoices, download them, convert them to a PDF to add a password, then email them out to everyone. It took a good few hours. But with Famly, sending invoices is just a click of a few buttons.  It’s saving us so much time”.

And it's not just sending the invoices. Teresa says she also now spends less time explaining invoices to parents.

“[The parents] understand the invoices, so I’m not having to respond to as many queries about what’s owed. I showed the parents the ‘Details’ tab of the Famly invoices so they can see a breakdown of the hours themselves.”

Not having to go back and forth with parents about invoicing queries means fees are paid more quickly and Teresa has fewer quibbles about what’s owed.

Two young boys play with cardboard dinosaurs in a classroom.

How does Famly give leadership oversight?

Being the manager and administrator of a setting means Debbie and Teresa need oversight of the figures. Be it debt, staff hours, or how many observations have been done, Famly takes care of it.

“I use Famly mostly to keep track of the revenue,” says Teresa. “I have to keep an eye on debt and who needs to pay. I love the graph in the Revenue and Debt app because I can always see what payments have come in each day.”

For Debbie, Famly taking care of the numbers is especially valuable.

“Having staff sign in and out through Famly means I can easily keep track of when they’ve been at work. When I’m calculating their wages each month, Famly totals everything up - I don’t have to do the maths!” she laughs.

“I can also check the tally of observations in the Child Development app, so I can see where staff might need more help and keep an eye on which children are being observed.”

How has Famly improved parental partnerships?

“Before, trying to contact all the parents through Facebook or email just wasn’t working. Sometimes emails go to the ‘junk’ folder, not everyone checks their Facebook, so we could never be sure that everyone got a message.” explains Teresa. 

Now, the Blackberry Lane team send their newsletter through Famly, add events, privately message parents, and use the News Feed to share their surveys.

“Parents are doing more observations, as they say it’s easier than what we had before,” explains Debbie. “We also have parents going into Famly and registering children as sick, rather than us having to take time out to call parents when children didn’t arrive.”

Another benefit of parents enjoying Famly is that Blackberry Lane are getting better information about children, and more of it. Debbie’s found that parents are filling out the children’s profile in Famly more thoroughly than when they used a pen and paper, and are keeping those personal details up-to-date themselves, rather than the team having to chase them - “or them just not telling us!” adds Teresa. “We know that in an emergency, if we have to ring, the phone numbers are more likely to be correct in Famly.”

“Parents understand it,” says Debbie, “It’s just so simple and friendly. It’s working really well.”

Three wooden toys are on a table, a fish, an ocotupus and a whale. A young child's hand holds the octopus toy.

...And the children too!

It’s not just the adults at Blackberry Lane who love Famly. Debbie set up an old touch-screen PC at the door, so the children could use the sign-in screen to sign themselves into pre-school.“They're finding their own name on the screen and when they’re signed in, and their picture turns to colour, they love it! It’s ownership for the children, as it’s their setting.”

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Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.

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